Sept. 8, 1986

And just like that, an icon was born.

Oprah — or as it’s properly known, The Oprah Winfrey Show — premiered 21 years ago today, and our lives haven’t been the same since. Sure, there were no free cars, big giveaways, book clubs, sobfests or couch-jumping on the first episode, but you have to start small, right?

Oprah started 30-minutes small. Before becoming a one-woman, one-name empire, O jetted to Chicago in 1984 to host the low-rated AM Chicago. Because everything she touches turns to gold, the program became a hit with the Emmy-winner at its helm and soon turned into the hour-long and nationally broadcast show we love and know now.

Oprah, whose 22nd season kicks off Sept. 10, started out as just a regular chatfest, but the future mogul separated herself from the rest of the pack by addressing serious issues, especially those geared toward women, and even brought her own self into the mix, revealing her past sexual abuse and struggle with the scale. Her 1988 weight-loss episode, "The Weight Wagon," remains her most-watched episode to date.

And speaking of ratings, Oprah, which will stay on the air until 2011, is the highest-rated talk show in U.S. history. Internationally, 21 million eyeballs in more than 150 countries tune in to watch the 53-year-old grill guests like James Frey and get reduced to tears every two and a half episodes or so.

Even George Clooney shed a few, so no one is immune to the power of O.

What is your favorite Oprah moment?

By Joyce Eng

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